So hey everyone. I'm new to the site. My name's Chelsea and I'm a young atheist (fifteen years old). I've been an atheist since May of 2011. I told my parents but they didn't take it very well ("Where did we go wrong? Should we check her into a mental facility? I wonder if she's just doing it for attention?") so I was able to convince them that I am Catholic, even though...I'm not. But I'd rather lie to my parents about my religious beliefs (or lack thereof, rather) than be treated like some kind of rebellious heathen. I'm a good kid, really, I think. I worked hard to get into a really great high school and I keep my grades up; I don't drink or smoke weed or have sex. But somehow the idea of atheism can cancel that all out for my parents.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm glad to be a part of something where I can talk about atheism without being punished for it. And if the majority of you are adults, as I presume you are, you may or may not have more experience in the world of atheism than I. With that being said, I have some trouble backing up what I believe when people ask me. It's like, I know what I believe and why I believe it, but it makes more sense in my head than it does out loud and I can't change my thoughts into sentences. I'd really like to be able to arm myself with knowledge so I don't look like a fool next time I'm asked.
Anyway, thanks for reading if you're there.
Welcome to the site. I was raised without religion so I won't pretend to be qualified to give you advice on that side of things. With regards to arming yourself with knowledge, that is a great idea. Personally I have enjoyed watching youtube videos by people like thunderf00t, Aronra, and Ozmoroid. Some of them get pretty deep into scientific terms and concepts and may go over your head but overall they are entertaining and interesting so I would recommend you check them out when you have a computer to yourself. I can also recommend the atheist experience (atheist-experience.com), it is a weekly call in show in texas where they talk to theists and atheists alike and dissect what they are saying. And finally, Godless Bitches (http://godlessbitches.podbean.com/) is a podcast specifically about feminism and atheism which you might also be interested in.
Ok, so now I have loaded over 9000 hours of homework on you I want to let you know that you are welcome here. If you are lying to your parents about being an atheist I would probably recommend you learn about internet security, particularly: how to hide what you have been doing. There are all kinds of horror stories about kids becoming atheists without telling their parents and then their parents check out their browser history and go nuts. For this, I recommend Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as a web browser as these both have privacy modes which automatically erase all record of your browsing session.
Hope everything goes well for you,
Shortcut for Firefox: ctrl+shift+p, you can also use the command "forget this website" (or something similar, I only know the german name) in the browser history, erasing all evidence that you have ever been there. You can also change the settings so it doesn't show your bookmark entries in the suggested results, should someone else type an adress in the bar above. ^
Welcome Chelsea! Thanks for introducing yourself! :)
My favorite thing you said in your post was that you're looking to arm yourself with knowledge. I think that's really important and I think it's the right way to think about it. You really do have to arm yourself with knowledge. If you're going to be a good ambassador for skepticism then you ought to be able to convey your position, even if only with a few cohesive thoughts. If for no other reason than to demonstrate to your parents and others that you've arrived at your position not because you're young and rebellious but because you've really given it some thought and really undertaken a personal investigation.
To that end, if you're interested in any reading suggestions feel free to let me know. Also, I strongly suggest you avail yourself of the Think Atheist Radio Show. (Full disclosure: I'm the show's producer) We have as our guests philosophers, scientists, and others coming on to discuss in conversational English all sorts of things that will help arm yourself. Plus, you'll always be learning about different and important books to read to continue updating your armaments! :)
Just ask away about specific issues and many here will provide you with good answers and food for thought (Nelson's posts, and almost everyone else's, except the theistic trolls, and Sunday School are always good to read/look through).
Some other websites you might want to check out (if you haven't already):
Why Won't God Heal Amputees, Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, TalkOrigins, The Rejection of Pascal's Wager, Secular Web, Skeptic, Americans United (for Separation of Church and State), Skeptic's Annotated Bible
Welcome, and good luck!
The beauty of being an atheist is that you really aren't required to have all of the answers, or even most of them. The universe is a big place, and our human understanding of it is still quite small. That said, humans have accumulated more knowledge than any one person can ever hope to fit in their head. If you understand the general principles behind your beliefs you can almost always dig up references on the specifics later.
For instance, pretty much anytime some one starts a question with "If evolution is true..." I can address most of the question simply by understanding the general principles of evolution and natural selection, along with some general biology. If that doesn't satisfy, I explain that I would be happy to look up the exact name of the species to which I am referring in my argument, or research paper, or experiment (etc.), at which point I can provide the information in exhaustive detail.
I have been an atheist my entire life. My worldview has changed numerous times throughout my life. Science has revealed new things forcing me to change my views. I've never claimed to have some divinely revealed truth or to have all the answers as revealed in some sacred text; what I have is a sincere conviction to pursue the best description of reality possible based on the evidence I have at my disposal. I have said "I don't know" more times than I can count, but not knowing is not a statement of concession; it's just happens to be the truth at the time. When I don't know something, instead of simply accepting a wrong answer because it is convenient, I do my best to explore the issue further.
The best arguments you will ever make will probably be the ones you have internalized -- the arguments where you have worked out the logic behind them thoroughly for yourself. You should be the harshest critic of your own views. While it is perfectly understandable that you will want to defend your beliefs, the person you are most accountable to is yourself. Take the time to articulate your views, review them, and scrutinize them. Certainly, use every resource at your disposal to facilitate the process, but make sure first and foremost that the arguments you employ are the arguments that you, yourself, have tried the hardest to defeat. Eventually, you will be able to reflexively defend your position to pretty much anyone.
Maybe that was overly general, but as others have mentioned, there are lots of resources available, and if you have specific questions or thoughts you want to flesh out, you can always ask the community. Someone is bound to have a reply that will help you progress.
I don't think this is overly general. I think it is right on target.
I don't drink or smoke weed or have sex. But somehow the idea of atheism can cancel that all out for my parents.
I had this exact thought/feeling when I came out to my parents. I didn't come out to my parents until I was in my final years of college. Even then it was tough. I can't imagine what it would have been like as a teenager, so I completely understand just wanting to keep the peace for now. In the meantime, feel free to read my coming out story - maybe it will help just to know that you're not so alone.
As far as arming yourself with knowledge, you already have some great advice in the posts above. Also, take some time to think and self-reflect. Atheism (unless you have proof that disproves an unfalsifiable belief) is only about what you don't do and what you don't believe. Figure out what you value, what you spend your time doing, what you stand for - these will all be great follow ups after the, "hi, I'm an atheist and I don't eat babies," part. To guide this process, I highly recommend learning more in general about other systems of thinking and philosophies. I recommend looking into critical thinking, skepticism, and perhaps even humanism - but that's me :).
Welcome Chelsea! Do you attend a public or private school? A good one either way, I hope. I recommend you pay particular attention in science classes, as well as history & social studies. Read up on the mythology of other cultures, and you'll be armed with plenty of evidence to show Bible-bangers that they're full of crap. Don't expect to change any minds- the devout are skilled in ignoring clear evidence, but the knowledge will be useful to you at least.
Welcome, Chelsea. I've been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Coincidentally, "Religulous" is airing on IFC tonight and my husband and I have been watching that and laughing! As others have posted, being atheist is, for some, not so much about being able to articulate what you believe as much as articulating what you don't believe or accept based on lack of objective evidence. I'm a college professor and tell my students that being able to think CRITICALLY is probably the most valuable skill we can have as human beings. There is nothing wrong with saying, "I don't know!" People who propose to "know" something without offering any objective, credible evidence are the ones to watch out for!
Hi Chelsea and welcome to T|A. Believe me when I say that waiting is a good idea. My mother only found out about my atheism a few months ago. I'm 33, married, and haven't lived under her roof for quite a long time. Nevertheless, it was VERY uncomfortable and hostile. I can't imagine what it would've been like to come out to her while I was still living under her roof. In fact, I dread the thought of it! It's a shame that we have to lie to our loved ones, but in your case I'd agree that it's absolutely necessary. By all means, come out to them when you're older and not living at home or dependent on them in any way. Until then, yeah, you made the right call.
When I was first discovering my Atheism, I found YouTube to be an enormous help as far as arming myself with knowledge. There are lots of videos of talks given by the greats like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and many others. Their words have often made me feel like a fool for EVER having believed in all that nonsense, but it's a welcome feeling! I'd also recommend the comedy of Bill Maher and the late great George Carlin too :)
Just keep your head up and you'll get through this difficult time.